What You Need to Know About the Navy Office of Hazing Prevention

Rear Adm. Tony KurtaBy Rear Adm. Tony Kurta
Director, Military Personnel Plans and Policy

NAVADMIN 034/17 announced the establishment the Navy Office of Hazing Prevention (N137) as the lead entity for hazing policy and tracking substantiated cases.  Here’s what every Sailor needs to know about hazing prevention.

What is N137, and why was it created?

The Navy Office of Hazing Prevention’s (OPNAV N137) mission is to ensure every substantiated hazing incident is reported and tracked in a timely manner, and oversee hazing policy.

The creation of OPNAV N137 through a reorganization of existing OPNAV assets is the result of a careful, deliberate assessment of current hazing incident report tracking methods and the desire for more formalized oversight of substantiated hazing incidents. The creation of OPNAV N137 will assist in increased tracking and trend analysis, allowing Navy leaders to be proactive in finding potential causes or trends in hazing behavior and stop it. Our Navy fosters a culture of dignity and respect for every Sailor, and hazing has no place within our Navy culture.

What is hazing?

Hazing occurs when a service member causes another to be exposed to cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive, demeaning or harmful activities. Hazing is not limited to physical acts, but can include verbal or psychological actions designed to cause harm to another Sailor.  The full definition of hazing can be found in SECNAVINST 1610.2A Paragraph 6, Section A.

This behavior is contrary to the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment and has no place in our Navy.

What happens to someone caught hazing?

Hazing can be charged in a variety of ways and prosecuted at general, special, or summary courts-martial. It can also lead to Article 15 Non Judicial Punishment and administrative separation.

Individuals soliciting hazing actions or condoning hazing actions are not exempt from prosecution. Someone who consents to hazing actions through inaction, including commanders and supervisors who know that hazing may or did occur and do not intervene, will also be prosecuted. Refusing to intervene to prevent an instance of hazing will be taken just as seriously as those that participate in hazing behavior, and leaders are responsible for ensuring their commands operate with a climate free from hazing.

The bottom line is that every instance of hazing will be taken seriously, and perpetrators will be held accountable within the full extent of military law.

What is Navy doing to prevent hazing in the fleet?

Hazing prevention remains a Navy leadership priority. One incident is one too many. It is the responsibility of every Sailor to ensure that hazing does not occur in any form at any level. Every Sailor has the responsibility to make the appropriate authorities aware of each violation of this policy. Commanders or individuals in supervisory positions are responsible for ensuring that all ceremonies and initiations conducted within their organizations or commands comply with this policy. Supervisory personnel will ensure that Sailors participating in command authorized ceremonies, initiations and other activities are treated with dignity and respect during these events.

Bystander intervention also is a key component of hazing prevention. All Sailors must understand and act in a manner that condemns and prevents hazing behavior, regardless of rank or position.

As shipmates, we should all look out for each other and prevent harm before it occurs. At every level of service, Sailors must feel comfortable demonstrating the courage to intervene if events are likely to generate damaging or potentially catastrophic outcomes to individuals or the Navy at large.

Formal tracking of incidents plays a key role in hazing prevention. As outlined in NAVADMIN 034/13, in order to address hazing, we first must begin with an accurate picture. Formal reporting and tracking of substantiated hazing incidents, from start to finish, will give us the ability to refine our approach with hazing prevention. Tracking these events sheds light on the nature and the frequency of occurrence, and provides Navy leaders the information required for immediate, specific corrective action. The ultimate goal of increased tracking and trend analysis is to proactively identify potential causes that lead to hazing behavior in order to eliminate it. One instance of hazing is one instance too many, and tracking these instances in a formalized database will assist in providing visibility required to take corrective and proactive measures.

There is no place for hazing in our Navy, and every Sailor must be committed to eliminating hazing completely. Hazing prevention starts with the individual Sailor.

Are our Navy traditions, like the “crossing the line” ceremony, considered hazing?

Military customs and traditions have been, and will remain, an integral part of the Navy. Hazing has no part in these traditions.

Initiations, ceremonies and rites of passage developed throughout our Naval history can be effective leadership tools that instill esprit de corps, unit cohesion and respect for an accomplishment of another Sailor. Graduations, “crossing the line” ceremonies and other time-honored Navy traditions are some of the ways we celebrate and recognize the achievements of individual Sailors or those of entire units. However, those celebrations must be conducted in the professional manner we expect from every one of our Sailors, regardless of rank or position. Shipmates must be able to work together, building up and supporting their shipmates in an encouraging environment. Cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive, demeaning, or harmful behavior that is degrading, embarrassing or injurious is unprofessional and illegal, and has no place in our Navy traditions. Our Sailors are the Navy’s most valuable resource, and we all have a responsibility to ensure a safe, professional working environment.

The customs and traditions we have today have been built on a foundation of Honor, Courage and Commitment. These Navy core values require each of us to be part of a disciplined, well-prepared team committed to mission accomplishment. We cannot have a well-prepared team unless every Sailor on that team is treated with dignity and respect.